My life makes perfect sense; day becomes night and back again, rain falls down, steam goes up and time only runs in one direction. Thanks to Professor Brian Cox and his recent excellent programmes about the universe I have a faint understanding of how my existence is structured as it is and why I am doomed to be terribly ordinary.
If I’d been privy to this knowledge earlier I may not have wasted a wet afternoon in August when I was nine trying to work out the practicalities of irradiating a spider and getting it to bite me.
This week’s films are about characters whose lives do not make sense. They are able to make the leap into the zone where imagination is king and everything is weird, and rather cool.
Sucker Punch sees a young girl locked up in an insane asylum to be lobotomised. Her only hope of keeping her brain in one piece is to delve into worlds her mind has created with the help of four fellow inmates in a convoluted attempt at escape, mostly involving swords, guns, huge amounts of slo-mo and thigh-high boots.
Source Code has Jake Gyllenhaal forced to exist in a loop of eight minutes, trying to identify a train bomber before the service terminates permanently.
Both films are complete logic black holes. The mechanics that drive their stories couldn’t stand up in a faint breeze and the holes in their respective plots would survive a drive through from a double decker bus display team.
But here’s the rub; Source Code thrilled me for its entire running time, with its fast paced story, interesting characters and melon-twisting ideas. Sucker Punch by way of comparison was louder, shinier and averaged more females wearing stockings but was a droning bore; a rare occurrence where playing a computer game tie-in would feel exactly the same as watching the source material.
They’re both ridiculous in their own special way, so what made one great and the other suck? This got me thinking about the realms of nonsense in film. How much we’re willing to put up with and how high we’re willing to suspend our disbelief. Some films are enjoyed purely for their ability to perform a spectacular nosedive in the face of quality.
Why is it we enjoy Sean Connery dispensing a generic guard with a handy blowpipe disguised as a cigarette in You Only Live Twice, but start handing out the blood pressure tablets when Pierce Brosnan has the bare-faced cheek to drive an invisible Aston Martin in Die Another Day? Surely they’re both playing the same character and are being equally daft? I suspect it has something to do with the classic Connery films distinct Swinging 60s flavour that contains overwhelming undertones of nostalgia.
It reminds me of watching Chicken Run with a friend years ago; as the credits rolled he stood up, woefully shook his head and declared without a hint of irony ‘Utter rubbish, completely unrealistic.’ I’ve never worked out to this day what he was expecting, but it was clear he has never visited this neck of the woods, where the rats are big enough to talk.
In the case of Sucker Punch, I may have been fairer to it if the glossy action sequences were connected with characters worth cheering for, or a story that was worth a damn or a maybe a dark vein of humour running throughout.
From cinemas gargantuan back-catalogue it is evident that sense is not a required quality; entertainment of some description however, most definitely is.